Common section

Chapter 4. Time for an Alternative to the Church

In This Chapter

• John Calvin’s highly structured theology

Calvin’s influence on the formation of the Presbyterian Church

Protestants form more and more denominations

Henry VIII creates the Anglican Church

England flip-flops between Catholicism and Protestantism

Prior to the spread of the Reformation spirit in Europe, reformers frustrated with the state of the Church had no recourse other than to push for change from within. The earliest reformers never conceived of breaking with the Church or forming new religious institutions or communities. The fact that Luther dared to be different and stand up for his religious convictions inspired others throughout Europe to search for a more meaningful religious experience.

The Reformation Goes International

People’s priests, or priests hired by municipalities to care for their people, carried many of Luther’s ideas and ideas related to the Reformation movement across Europe. The spread of these ideas among the common people of Europe has been referred to as what else but the “Reformation of the Common Man.”

One such people’s priest lived in Zurich, a man named Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531). About the same time Luther made his stand in Germany, Zwingli was relying more and more on the Bible in his sermons and less and less on Church tradition. Ultimately, Zwingli convinced the city council of Zurich to side with him and other reformers in a public debate over religious issues and effectively ended the control of the Church over Zurich. Zwingli’s ideas, presented in his Sixty-Seven Conclusions, included the rejection of monastic life, the rejection of the idea of purgatory, the rejection of clerical celibacy, and the belief that only God can forgive sins.

Define Your Terms

Icons were religious symbols such as statues and stained glass windows depicting saints, among other things. Many reformers disapproved of the veneration of saints, which was part of Church tradition, so they removed the “idols" from churches. These destroyers of icons were known as iconoclasts.

Things changed dramatically in Zurich over the following years. Services no longer included the mass, and religious images, or icons, disappeared from churches. Christianity in Zurich looked less and less like Catholicism every year. That phenomenon spread from town to town as Europe moved deeper into the Reformation.

As a Matter of Fact

While many contemporaries of Luther sought alternatives to the Church, not all of them agreed with Luther on theology. For many, Luther remained too Catholic for their tastes. Zwingli was a prime example. While Luther believed in consubstantiation, Zwingli argued that the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper merely symbolized the body and blood of Christ. For the most part, though, Protestants were on the same page.

The first public forum for Protestants was held at the Colloquy of Marburg in 1529. Protestants including Luther and Zwingli agreed on 14 different Protestant ideas, but failed to find consensus regarding the Lord’s Supper. Interestingly, in the name of unity and cooperation, Zwingli agreed to disagree with Luther on that point, but Luther would have nothing to do with it. Luther and Zwingli eventually published work after work bashing one another for their beliefs about the Lord’s Supper. Thankfully for the Protestant movement, the debate didn’t deter many Europeans from turning away from Catholicism the way Luther and Zwingli had.

In 1531 civil war erupted in Switzerland between Catholics and the followers of Zwingli. Zwingli was wounded in a battle and discovered by Catholic forces who then killed him, quartered him, and burned his body. The war ended with a treaty stating Zurich would remain Protestant and the other Swiss states, or Cantons, would remain Catholic.

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